MADRID, Spain – Spanish police broke up an Islamic cell suspected of using the Internet to recruit fighters for the Iraq insurgency, arresting six people Wednesday in raids in northern Spain, authorities said.
The five men and a woman, all from Algeria or Morocco, were arrested in or near the city of Burgos, the Interior Ministry said. The cell is unrelated to 22 people indicted Tuesday on charges of recruiting potential homicide bombers for Iraq.
The new cell allegedly was led by an Algerian, Abdelkader Ayachine, who ran a Muslim butcher shop in Burgos. In addition to recruiting potential fighters for Iraq, authorities said the group sought donations through the shop for people jailed in Morocco in connection to a May 2003 homicide bombing in Casablanca that killed 45 people, the ministry said.
Members of the group called themselves "Los Ansar," an apparent reference to Ansar el Islam, an Al Qaeda-linked group that operates in Iraq, the ministry said.
The Burgos group also allegedly distributed audiovisual material that praised jihad, or holy war, and used online chat rooms to recruit fighters for the Iraq insurgency.
"The group basically worked via the Internet," Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told reporters.
Spain said it is the first time its police had cracked a cell that relied so heavily on the Internet. Police searched six homes and seized documents, computers and other material.
The investigation began a year and a half ago, with Spanish security agents receiving help from colleagues in Sweden, the United States and Denmark.
The ministry named the rest of the suspects as Algerians Mohamed Mouas, Smaine Kadouci and Yahia Drif, and Moroccans Wissan Lotfi and Fatima Zahrae Raissouni.
Ministry officials said it was not immediately clear if the cell actually managed to send any fighters to Iraq.
Spain also is awaiting a verdict in the trial of 28 people charged in the Madrid train bombings of March 2004, which killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.
Since then, police have arrested dozens of other suspected militants accused of plotting attacks in Spain or recruiting people for homicide attacks in Iraq.